Sustainability – reply to Town Council Consultation

Because of our belief that Climate Change is the most important issue for public authorities, we made the following submission to the Sutton C Town Council:

1 Vision & Values
We suggest expanding the vision as follows: Founded in our past, working for our future to improve local services & facilities AND OUR ENVIRONMENT, making Sutton Coldfield an even Better Place TO LIVE.
2 & 3 Corporate priorities
For us ‘greener’ means giving a high priority to building a local response to climate change. We believe that our town plan has to build in sustainability and resilience, on our first steps to be where we want to be in the next thirty years at least, in order to sustain the gains to our economy and our community.
4 Key Actions
1.1 Although Birmingham City Council is an important partner, Sutton is not an island and need constructive relationships with North Warwickshire and Walsall whose councils are planning developments on our borders which will impact on our traffic and bring in residents who see Sutton as their nearest town for shops and other facilities. Similarly we need to be aware that from with Birmingham localities like Erdington and Kingstanding have a similar focus on Sutton. A revised Town Centre plan needs to link to the way plans for the other neighbourhoods are developed.
1.2 Sutton Park is clearly very important. However the comments are much too restricted: there are many groups of stakeholders who will want a say in how the park develops. The park’s ecology is as important as car parking. Has the possibility of a trust to manage the park been shelved? Should lessons be sought from the management of the National Parks? A full consultation of the stakeholders deserves a full day conference; and will take months to prepare.
1.4 The Supplementary Planning document will need to be ambitious about future-proofing the new housing and industrial area. The latest government thinking about space standards, disabled access, ‘safer by design’ ideas, high insulation standards, reducing water run-off should be included. References to these ideas can be found in public documents like:
Secured by design. ‘SBD New Homes 2014’
DCLG, DH and DWP 2008. Lifetime Homes, Lifetime Neighbourhoods
The Nationally Described Space standards
Gov UK. Housing White paper 2017. Fixing our Broken Housing Market.
2.2 Include walking and cycling routes in the signage proposals.
2.3 Link litter to the promotion of recycling
2.4 Safer roads thinking should not be restricted to car usage. Pedestrians and cyclists must be considered. And safer includes better air quality, which implies a wider discussion about car usage, public transport and promoting hybrid and electric vehicles for residents.
2.8 Safeguard and champion Sutton’s Libraries. The libraries could revise the way they display local information, given that there are hundreds of voluntary groups. Putting a leaflet into a folder is not ideal publicity or communication and needs to be refreshed.
2.9 At the end of the season, plants could be ‘grown on’ rather than dumped, and distributed by local groups.
2.10 We agree that a heritage approach to marketing Sutton as a destination is a good idea; and builds on the current initiative by Holy Trinity Church, the Civic Society and The Park – perhaps a heritage trail is possible, with the central library as tourist information centre (signed as above) and possible inclusion of other churches and the Islamic Centre.
2.12 & 2.13 Include all Sutton’s parks and green areas in the planning.
2.17 Link this idea to a Sustainability Forum, with support from Sustainability West Midlands.
2.18 Link this to a Sutton App for the walking and cycling routes.
3.1 Give consideration to a generic ‘Enforcement Officer’ for ensuring compliance with local standards like planning and building regulations, empty homes legislation and liaison with BCC colleagues.
Also consider designating an officer as Sustainability Officer, with a view to linking across disciplines the actions of the council.
And for all council appointments give consideration to employing local staff.
3.4 Use existing Neighbourhood Forums and other similar groups for communication and consultation. See that there are forums for all the areas of Sutton (see below 3.5).
3.5 This is a crucial action. The council should study the neighbourhoods and consult on how to cover the whole town with areas that have a coherent local interest. Then those groups can proceed to writing either a Neighbourhood Plan or a Community Plan. This thinking will have to chime with the Town Centre Plan
3.6 Have Sustainability as one of the performance indicators, in order to see that all council policies make the links between the local economy, local society, transportation, health and our environment.
5 Other comments
One planning issue that should be tackled early is to exempt Sutton from the Birmingham regulations that cover the height of development. Sutton should not be shackled to a policy that suits the city centre. These and many planning issues should be looked at in more detail to further the unique identity of Sutton Coldfield.
Look into a local procurement policy, similar to BCC, in order to help the local economy.

John Heywood,
on behalf of EcoSutton
31st May 2017

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